We love going to the gym, but sometimes life gets busy and the only way to squeeze in a sweat is at home between appointments, pick-ups and meetings galore. But since most of us don’t keep a squat rack next to the china cabinet, a no-equipment workout featuring bodyweight moves is a great way to tone, tighten and even strengthen our muscles (without lifting a single dumbbell).
But won’t I only get stronger if I lift weights? Not necessarily. No-equipment workouts are great for all fitness levels because they can easily be modified to fit your needs. Beginners can get comfortable with new exercises and prioritize proper form, while more advanced users can increase reps or reduce rest time to keep the workout challenging. Bodyweight exercises are also a key component of HIIT workouts—they combine cardio and strength training to promote muscle growth while also increasing your heart rate. A 2018 study conducted by Experimental Gerontology confirmed that high-intensity bodyweight training produces similar changes in muscle mass, physical performance and metabolic health as compared to resistance training.
So, yes, you can still build strong muscles without “pumping iron.”
To get the most out of your equipment-free workout, Luke Zocchi, certified personal trainer (and the man behind Chris Hemsworth’s Thor-level muscles), says to focus on compound movements. “You’ll get more benefit for the time and effort you put in,” he says, “and they’ll help to build your foundation strength quicker by hitting multiple muscle groups at once.” A squat, for example, is a compound exercise because it targets your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips and core. “Without weights, these moves are great for toning,” he explains. However, if you’re looking to bulk up, dumbbells, kettlebells and ankle weights can add additional resistance to any bodyweight move.